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Kenya tourist abductions send out ripples of fear


Cancellations see Lamu tourism take a big hit

Dr. Wolfgang H. Thome, eTN Uganda  Oct 05, 2011

(eTN) - Information received from sources in Kenya speak of a wave of cancellations for beach resorts in and around Lamu, arguably accelerated by a directive from the tourism ministry "not to close" establishments even when occupancies drop to near zero, which sent further jitters down the spine of both the tourism industry and potential clientele.

Airlines flying to Lamu on scheduled services from Nairobi’s Wilson Airport and operating charters from Mombasa and Malindi have also been watching the developments with apprehension. While the global media hounds are presently still flocking to Lamu, the airlines do depend on a regular flow of tourists, and with this gone, they will have to take a close look at both aircraft size and the number of flights they can viably operate, thus expanding the fallout of the two abductions from the hospitality sector to the aviation industry.

Tour operators in Mombasa are also seeing a massive drop in demand for day visits to Lamu following the wide publicity the travel embargoes by diplomatic missions in Nairobi have received, a trend aided by clauses in travel insurance packages that trips to such places might not be covered under the insurance policy and might, in fact, void it altogether.

Major layoffs are now looming on the horizon for resorts in and around Lamu, as well as for those further south along the coast but remotely located over fears that more abductions could be planned by militants in Somalia, if not worse. Such cowardly action is aimed to hit Kenya’s thriving tourism industry in a "proxy retaliation" against Kenya’s support on many levels for the Transitional Federal Government in Mogadishu and their determined fight against Islamic militancy in the region.

Stakeholders, in the meantime, are fairly united in their reaction, laying the blame on the doorstep of government and citing complacency and "sleeping dogs" for the second abduction right under the nose of a major Kenyan naval base in Lamu.

Said one source: "It speaks volumes for the security on that base; what if Al Shabab had sent suicide bombers there - what then? Did they have perimeter patrols on the water, and if so why did those not spot these criminals making their way ashore and running off? Our government is only good cracking down on political dissent, but when it comes to regular security, they fail us big time.

"This is the biggest challenge to us in Kenya from Somalia since the 'Shifta War’ in the 60s, and it is aimed directly at the most productive economic sector - tourism. It is time to change tunes and help the African Union in Somalia to bring peace to that unfortunate country and finish the militants, or we will never have peace here."

Cancellations see Lamu tourism take a big hit
Police patrol in Lamu / Image via saharareporters.com



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